when inspiration strikes like lightning

Have you ever been listening to a particular type of music for ages only to find out that it’s a very niche genre that actually has a name?

Ever since the Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby (and probably before this too, but I can’t quite remember) I’ve been jamming to something called electro swing. Only I didn’t know it was called electro swing.

Designed by Jess Couture in Procreate with a set of neon brushes.

Designed by Jess Couture in Procreate with a set of neon brushes.

One day while I was working on something I had a live stream going in the background. A French man was cooking while listening to great music. When someone asked him about it he said something about “electro swing”.

I had an instant image in my mind of a vintage poster, with a swing dancing robot woman and a neon sign like the one above.

A page from Jess Couture’s sketchbook.

A page from Jess Couture’s sketchbook.

I started looking up 1920s style reference photos and sketching out poses to try to match the design in my head. I also almost immediately looked on Creative Market for a set of brushes that I could use to make a neon sign. The ones I found were incredibly affordable and came with detailed instructions on how to get the best results with them.

I played with the idea of having two dancing characters vs a single character, and then I moved to Procreate to start trying to flesh out the sketches.

The beginnings of a robot flapper character by Jess Couture

The beginnings of a robot flapper character by Jess Couture

But I didn’t end up going anywhere with this idea because I got stuck. I’m hung up on how to incorporate a more realistic neon sign with super cartoonish characters. I don’t normally go for realism, but those neon sign brushes are SO cool and I really want to incorporate them into the poster, but then I need to up my realism game for the dancing robot(s) and that terrifies me, because I know it will be a huge challenge for me and honestly I don’t think I can do my idea justice.

I still think of this poster from time to time even though I stopped actively working on this weeks ago. I think that means I have to work on it…

If you’re curious about electro swing, here’s a great playlist!


five of my favourite places to find colour palette inspiration

A lot of my work starts with one colour or a specific colour palette that I want to use. With the colours picked I go about thinking of subjects inspired by the colours. This inspiration process means I’m always on the lookout for colour palettes that grab my attention and light my imagination on fire.

Here are my top five sources for colour palette inspiration.

  1. Instagram

This is a screenshot of the Instagram posts I saved for colour palette inspiration. There are some really great artists here, you should check them all out! Image credits left to right, top to bottom:    @watsonpayne   ,    @oanabefort   ,    @melaniemilesdesign   ,    @alikiful   ,    @brwnpaperbag   ,    @miraparadies   ,    @spoonflower   ,    @pantone   ,    @cheru_illustration   ,    @latermedia   ,    @shopbando   ,    @emilyisabella   ,    @nicolo_canova   ,    @lisacongdon   ,    @salini.banana

This is a screenshot of the Instagram posts I saved for colour palette inspiration. There are some really great artists here, you should check them all out! Image credits left to right, top to bottom: @watsonpayne, @oanabefort, @melaniemilesdesign, @alikiful, @brwnpaperbag, @miraparadies, @spoonflower, @pantone, @cheru_illustration, @latermedia, @shopbando, @emilyisabella, @nicolo_canova, @lisacongdon, @salini.banana

Lets get one of the most obvious ones out of the way first. If you’re anything like me, you’re on it all day anyway, so why not make the most of it and create a section in your saved posts for colour inspo on Instagram?



2. Pinterest

This is a screenshot of my own    colour inspo board on Pinterest   , featuring many works by    Zeke's Lunchbox    as I’ve been kind of obsessed with her work lately.

This is a screenshot of my own colour inspo board on Pinterest, featuring many works by Zeke's Lunchbox as I’ve been kind of obsessed with her work lately.

Pinterest is another obvious one. You better have a pin board for colour inspiration, because you’re bound to be flooded by it if you use the platform at all. I personally love Pinterest, it feels like I’m flipping through a magazine when I scroll. It’s on Pinterest where I found my 3rd source…


How freaking GORGEOUS!! Credit: love print studio blog

How freaking GORGEOUS!! Credit: love print studio blog

While scrolling through Pinterest I kept finding these wonderfully curated image collages with the colours sampled at the bottom. Not only are the colour palettes gorgeous, but the selection of images, their arrangement, and the execution of the content is so appealing to look at. After pinning a handful of these posts to my board I started going straight to the source.


4. Adobe Color

adobe-colour-example

Adobe Color is great because you don’t need an Adobe paid subscription to use it, you can explore palettes created by others, or create your own. You can even import an image and use the eyedroppers to sample the colours and get the hex or RGB codes so you can drop the colours straight into your digital painting tools. You will need an account if you want to start saving a library of your palettes and sharing them with the Adobe Color community.


5. Design Seeds

Admittedly I don’t use Design Seeds as much as I used to, but if you like more muted, softer colour palettes they have endless inspiration for you to browse organized by helpful categories. My favourite categories to browse are the seasons.

Credit: Design Seeds

Credit: Design Seeds

Bonus!

Maybe this goes without saying, but being equipped with a cellphone means I have a camera on me at all times, and if I see something I like I stop and take some pictures. Yes, I do have a lot of photos. No, I don’t always go back to do anything with them. But the beauty of tools like Adobe Color is you can literally sample colours from your life and put them into your work, especially if you work digitally.

I took this on my walk to work. I think it was a truck for a roller-skate rental place.

I took this on my walk to work. I think it was a truck for a roller-skate rental place.

I hope this gave you some new places to look for colour for your art, designs, or whatever other projects you’ve got going on. Colour is so inspiring, and I personally can’t get enough.

current inspiration - fall 2018

I’ve been feeling lost since around September. When it came to my art, I had business goals, I had a vision of what I wanted to be doing as an artist, I had motivation, but something was missing.

I think I was lacking any sort of direction. What I mean is, I knew I wanted to create art that could be put onto products and to be sold as prints, but I didn’t actually know what that art should look like. I was stuck behind an art block.

I thought Inktober would help me find my way out of it, and while I didn’t finish it, Inktober helped me in two ways:

  1. I learned that I really don’t like prompt lists. I get why some people find that putting constraints on their work can help, but it’s not for me. I’ve even tried coming up with my own prompt lists and still struggled to create.

  2. I realizd that the work I’ve been making up to this point wasn’t fully authentic. It was missing a certain weirdness. I’m a little weird! And that 100% needs to show up in my work. The #glamzombiehand series I did for Inktober allowed me to explore and lean into my weird side a little bit and I was happy with the results.

I’ve spent the last couple of months really paying attention to what resonates with me, and here’s what stood out:

Blue Planet 2

Photo taken of a still from and episode of Blue Planet 2. I have a new appreciation for crabs.

Photo taken of a still from and episode of Blue Planet 2. I have a new appreciation for crabs.

Watching Blue Planet 2 really sparked my imagination. I had already had an interest in alien worlds and had been wanting to find a way to express that. This series of documentaries made me want to explore that idea.

Zeke’s Lunchbox

From @zekeslunchbox on Instagram.

From @zekeslunchbox on Instagram.

Zeke’s Lunchbox (Julia) is an artist after my own heart. She uses all of my favourite colours, and her subject matter is right up my alley.

Shanna Van Maurik @nogobed

Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

Shanna’s work kept showing up in my Pinterest feed and I’m so glad. Not only am I in love with her colour choices, but the looseness of her technique is something I’m always trying to strive for.

Ban.do

From @shopbando on Instagram

From @shopbando on Instagram

Ban.do is a brand that I’ve been a huge fan of for a while. Not only are they fun, quirky, and inspiring, but they feature a lot of great artists in their planners and on their products, and it might just be a secret bucket list item for me to get my work into one of their planners. :)

Takashi Murakami

Photo taken at the Vancouver Art Gallery at the show  The Octopus Eats its Own Leg  by Takashi Murakami.

Photo taken at the Vancouver Art Gallery at the show The Octopus Eats its Own Leg by Takashi Murakami.

In March of this year we were lucky to have the Murakami show The Octopus Eats its Own Leg come to the Vancouver Art Gallery. I left that show feeling incredibly happy and inspired. I love Murakami’s views about the line between fine art and “low art” or commercial art, and it showed me that just because I put cute faces on things and use a lot of pink, doesn’t mean I’m any less serious of an artist. I can be serious about my art without focusing on serious subject matter.

The takeaways

Ultimately these points of interest have given me a list of things to inject into my work:

  • Colour, nothing new there.

  • Weirdness, I’m letting my freak out.

  • Playfulness, let’s not take life too seriously, okay?

  • Fine Art can be cute. It can be funny, too. See above about not taking things seriously. And I shouldn't be self conscious about my work being “cute”.

  • Exploring alien/unusual landscapes, creatures, and vegetation. I’m ready to leave this plant and dream up my own.

  • Loosen up! Perfection is a creativity killer.

Finally, I feel liberated from the block, and I’m ready to start making like crazy again!

deep sigh of relief